Good Health and Bad Medicine:
Obesity - Part 3
Fatigue, Weakness, Poor Appetite And Tonics - Part 1
Fatigue, Weakness, Poor Appetite And Tonics - Part 2
Sexual Weakness, Impotence And Frigidity
Stimulants-coffee, Alcohol, Tobacco And 'pep' Pills
Arthritis And Rheumatism
Read More Articles About: Good Health and Bad Medicine
( Originally Published 1940 )
"ARE you depressed? Do you feel that you are licked? Are you tired of fighting? Do you think there is no hope and everything is going wrong and against you? Don't you quit! You don't know what tomorrow may bring. Every cloud must have a silver lining. Win back your energy and vitality! Fight off old age! Revitalize weary organs and muscles-rebuild worn-out tissues and cells—sooth irritable nerves-have pep, energy, vitality and good health. You owe it to yourself to develop and preserve your good health via Nature's Way."
This is a quotation from a typical "message" for suffering humanity from manufacturers of infra-red, sun lamp, diathermy, short wave, and "short wave-radiothermy" apparatus.
These machines produce heat, ultra-violet light and electrical energy and have a respectable place in recognized medical practice. Almost every doctor has one or more such machines in his office and uses them to treat certain specific ailments. In the hands of a competent physician such ma-chines are useful. These, too, are double-edged weapons, how-ever, and except when used for certain specific disorders and under certain conditions they can do a great deal of harm.
The application of physical agents such as heat, light and electricity to the treatment of disease has a long history. The ancients knew the virtues of heat and sunlight, as well as massage, exercises, air and water. They were able to do a good deal without the use of expensive electrical light and X-ray equipment. These non-instrumental physical agents, given to us by Nature, are still with us. Everybody can learn their value and how to use them. Electrical apparatus, diathermy and X-ray equipment are also valuable, but they require special technical skill for proper administration, such as can be supplied only by trained physicians or technicians.
Infra-Red Rays and Heat
There is nothing mysterious or miraculous about infra-red rays-they are simply heat rays. These rays constitute one part of the spectrum, just as "ultra-violet" and "visible" or light rays constitute the other parts. Any object that is heated to a temperature higher than its surroundings will emit infra-red rays. Steam radiators, fires, electric toasters, arc lamps, incandescent lamps, steam pipes, hot stoves, hot-water bottles and electric heating pads will emit infra-red rays. From some of these, the amount of rays that are transmitted is greater than from others. The hot-water bottle, for ex-ample, emits rays of lower intensity than those derived from a 500-Watt incandescent lamp. For this reason the hot-water bottle is applied in direct contact with the body. But the heat from a hot-water bottle may be just as effective as the heat from an expensive "infra-red generator."
Heat is also obtained from hot wet packs, hot poultices and hot-water baths. The source of heat used must depend upon what part of the body requires heat and upon whether local or general application is desired.
A hot bath, for example, is valuable for the relief of muscular aches following unaccustomed exercise, or after expo-sure. The temperature of the bath should be not more than 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and the duration not more than 20 minutes. Baths at higher temperatures or of longer duration can leave one exhausted. It may be advisable to place a cold wet towel around the head during a hot bath. Prolonged hot baths should not be taken by elderly people or by those with heart trouble, except on a doctor's advice.
Local applications of heat are valuable in the treatment of arthritis, backaches, bruises and sprains of joints or muscles. It is not necessary, however, to use an expensive "infra-red machine." Most of them consist simply of a coiled plate of carborundum. An inexpensive heat lamp is just as good, or better, particularly when deeper penetration of heat is de-sired. Most heat lamps consist of a 250- to 500-watt tungsten or carbon filament luminous bulb screwed into a reflector. The reflector, a clamp (which can be attached to the bed or back of a chair), the bulb, and a connecting cord can be put together at the cost of from two to three dollars. Readymade lamps may be purchased at drug or department stores. Buy a lamp that can be clamped or that can be adjusted on a stand. Lamps that are held in the hand are cheaper but not as useful as the others.
When direct application of heat is desired, a hot-water bottle or electric pad may be used. Electric pads should never be left with children, helpless invalids or persons asleep. Be-cause of possibility of shock, no pad without rubberized covers should be used.
Ratings of heating pads (tested by Consumers Union in 1938).
(In order of quality)
Safety-Heet (United Drug Co.; distrib., drugstores).
Electro-Sheet (Seamless Rubber Co., New Haven, Conn.).
Samson Wetproof No. 52o; Macy's Wetproof No. F5 (Samson-United Corp., Rochester, N. Y.).
Westinghouse WP 164 (Westinghouse Electric & Mfg. Co., Mansfield, Ohio). Acceptable if used with rubberized cover. Ward's Fireproof Cat. No.-5287 (Montgomery Ward).
GE Hotpoint Downy (General Electric Co.). Temperature excessive
In the use of diathermy and "short-wave," heat is generated within the body by the application of a high-frequency electric current. Because of the depth of penetration, it is used by physicians for treatment of pain and certain other conditions in deep-seated structures of the body. The application of diathermy has many dangers, and it must never be used for self-treatment. Do not buy or rent diathermy, "short-wave" or "short-wave radio-therrny" apparatus for use at home. (The last is just a fancy name for a diathermy apparatus.)
As with infra-red rays, there has been developed by artful advertising an attitude of mystery and miracle on the part of the public toward ultra-violet rays. This is indicated by the increasing number of "sun lamps" sold and the craze for sun baths during the summer season. As a matter of fact, the number of ailments for which ultra-violet radiation or sun bathing may be used is not nearly so great as is assumed. It is definitely known that ultra-violet rays, whether the source is the sun or a lamp, will not, as is frequently sup-posed, (1) permanently lower blood pressure; (2) prevent or relieve colds; (g) cure anemia; (4) prevent or cure baldness; or (g) increase mental activity.
The most important use of ultra-violet rays is in the prevention and cure of rickets. The rays are also useful in the treatment of particular types of tuberculosis (in tuberculosis of the lungs, however, the rays may have a dangerous effect) and in the healing of sluggish wounds. But these are conditions requiring medical supervision, and high intensity ultra-violet rays, like any other medical agent, should be applied under medical supervision. This caution is necessary, since it is known that even very short exposure to ultra-violet rays may, in sensitive people, cause severe burns and conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eyes). Repeated or excessive exposures may lead, even in normal people, to degenerative changes of the skin and, rarely, to cancer. Even kidney damage has been reported following excessive exposure. Some skin disorders may be made worse by uncontrolled or even slight exposure to ultra-violet light.
There is, of course, no denying the "tonic" effects many people experience upon exposure to sunlight. A good deal of that effect may be due to the exercise in the open air that frequently accompanies the sun bathing. Exposure to sun-light also provides the body with vitamin D. The exposure should be gradual and judicious, and may be confined to the season when exposure to the sun, the cheapest and best source of ultra-violet light, is possible. During the winter, when exposure to the sun is not possible, if there is a need for vitamin D, it can be obtained from the use of cod-liver oil or a fish oil concentrate (see vitamin D).
Several years ago a study of a group of healthy pre-school children attending the Cornell Nursery School at Ithaca was undertaken in order to determine whether exposure to ultra-violet rays during the winter months would prove beneficial in lessening illness, particularly colds; in improving the condition of the blood; in increasing gains in height and weight or in improving the children's general physical condition. For the two winters during which observations were made, the doctors who conducted the study reported that it was not possible to find "either any improvement in the illness rate, in the number or severity of colds, and in the hemoglobin and red blood count or marked changes in physical status which could be attributed to the irradiation."
An artificial source of ultra-violet rays such as is obtained from a lamp (carbon-arc, quartz or mercury vapor) should be used only under a doctor's supervision. Those sun lamps which are safe to use at home are of value chiefly in tanning the skin. And since it is not definitely known that a tanned skin is any healthier than an untanned one, the ultimate value of such lamps seems to depend mainly on whether one finds a tanned skin attractive enough to warrant spending the money necessary to buy a good lamp.
The Council of Physical Therapy of the American Medical Association has accepted the following lamps for home use:
Everready Table Model Carbon Arc Lamp, Type M-i (National Carbon Co., Inc., Cleveland, Ohio).
Westinghouse Mazda Sunlight Lamps, Types S-i and S-s (Westinghouse Lamp Co., NYC).
Radium and X-Ray
Radium devices and substances, including water jars, belts, plates, fluids and even mud, have been and are still extensively sold for the relief of many ailments, for lengthening the span of life and as general "rejuvenators." All such claims are false. If the devices or substances do contain radium they are extremely dangerous. (A Pittsburgh million-aire, for example, recently died from the effects of drinking a radium water.) If the devices do not contain radium, they are simply so much junk which can do incalculable harm in giving a person a false sense of security and thus postponing a visit to a physician for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Reliance on worthless gadgets permits a disease to progress to an incurable stage.
Besides the appliances described above, there are advertised to the public a large number of electrical, chemical and mechanical devices without any scientific basis for their production. They include electro-magnetic belts, "soleroids" or magic horse-collars, bone stretchers, nose and limb-straighteners and hair restorers. They are all outright fakes.